Talking design with Velvet & Linen’s Brooke and Steven Giannetti

(Steven Khan/ ) - Brooke and Steve Giannetti

(Steven Khan/ ) - Brooke and Steve Giannetti

Three years ago, interior designer Brooke Giannetti started a blog to document her projects and her inspiration. She didn’t think anyone would read it.

Boy, was she wrong.

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Today, Velvet & Linen has e-mail subscribers all around the world, and it routinely appears on lists of must read design blogs. (The Washington Post included Velvet & Linen on its own top 10 design blog list in 2009.)

The success of the blog has catapulted Brooke’s career, as well as the career of her husband and business partner, Steve, an architect, furniture designer and painter. And, it’s helped land their work on the pages of numerous magazines, including Veranda, Coastal Living, New Old House, Romantic Homes and Country Living Gardener.

Followers of Velvet & Linen are treated to daily doses of design inspiration via the Giannettis’ aesthetic: an elegant, yet unfussy, mix of antiques, natural materials and warm, neutral colors (think soft creams, grays, blues and greens).

The couple designs with real life and families in mind, they say. Their approachable interiors, which are both rustic and refined, blend the beautiful with the practical and the old with the new (heavy on the old). For them, the more weathered and imperfect, the better.

Brooke’s blog has also recently led to a book. “Patina Style” (Gibbs Smith, $35), which was published in August, is a crash course in the Giannettis’ signature style and showcases the couple’s homes and other design projects. The first printing of the book sold out in less than a month.

In addition to their architecture, interior and landscape design firm, Brooke, 46, and Steve, 51, have a home furnishing shop, Giannetti Home, in Brentwood, Calif.

Though the couple live in Santa Monica, Steve is from the Washington area. He grew up in Prince George’s County and graduated from the University of Maryland. Brooke was born and raised in Los Angeles.

In addition to their blog, their book and their thriving businesses, the Giannettis have three children, two dogs and five chickens.

We spoke to them by phone in L.A. about their style, their love of subtle color palettes and their affinity for painter’s dropcloths from Home Depot.

Explain patina.

Brooke: The beauty and natural wear that comes from use and age.

Why do you prefer vintage and antique pieces over new furniture?

Brooke: Old things have classical proportions that new pieces often don’t. And things today seem to be more manufactured than handmade, and we love that handmade connection to an artist. Old pieces also give you the feeling of being connected to the past. They almost have a different energy; they’ve walked the walk.

You say you “adhere to a calmer color palette.” Can you explain?

Brooke: We don't use bright, vibrant colors. We tend to use more natural, muddy colors, which we think create a calmer space, and we really like that they don’t compete with the frenetic life that most of us live. A subtle color palette has a calming effect and creates a place to relax, not energize.

You prefer to paint walls, trim and ceiling all the same color. Why?

Steve: It gives you a sense of being enveloped in color. It makes you feel the space rather than the details. The details recede, so they don’t become the focal point.

What do you say to people who are afraid to paint trim something other than white?

Brooke: It’s only paint! It’s okay to experiment. Paint one side of the trim and one part of the wall and see how it feels to you. That’s the beauty of paint. You can just let it dry and repaint.

A surprising textile you like to use is a painter’s dropcloth from Home Depot. Tell me about it.

Brooke: I have antique, homespun linens with imperfections that give them charm. The Home Depot dropcloths have those imperfections, too. You wash the dropcloths and they get softer.

My office chair is upholstered in it. We’ve used them as drapes. I’ve upholstered a client’s wall with them to be used as a pin-up board. We covered a guest room daybed in another client’s home.

Steve: Some people have old sofas that are red or other colors, and they are hard to deal with because they attract so much attention in the middle of the room. Covering them with the dropcloths is an inexpensive way to give those pieces charm. They are only a couple dollars per yard, and they are easy to wash.

How can someone achieve “patina style” on a limited budget?

Brooke: Use a calming and limited color palette. For furniture, use natural colors, such as pale gray linen, natural linen and natural wood colors. For accents, take colors from the outdoors: pale blues and greens.

Steve: Go to flea markets, buy old shutters and hang them on the walls to give a whole new texture and feeling to a room. Bring in unexpected exterior elements into a room. Slipcover old pieces in the drop cloths.

What do you think is so special about a piece with patina?

Brooke: We prefer to see how a piece has been worn; it’s a connection to the artist who made it. And because we are parents and realize that our own house has developed its own patina as we live in it with our children and pets. For example, the wear on the floors where kids have ridden their scooters, or the paint that’s wearing off the newel post on the stairs, or the kitchen counter where we baked cookies and our daughter put a hot tray on the wood. The heat discolored the wood, but it looked beautiful to us.

Steve: People try to wipe that stuff clean and keep everything perfect, but that’s the beauty of things. They hold your memories.

 
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